The Killing Floor

An Evening with Elsa Rassbach

men looking pensive in a movie poster
Thursday, May 17, 2012, 7:00pm - 7:00pm

*Update: The format for this film screening has changed. The Killing Floor will be shown on DVD.

Introduction by producer Elsa Rassbach and Michael Dawson, Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.

Praised by The Village Voice as the most “clear-eyed account of union organizing on film," The Killing Floor is a powerful dramatic feature that tells the little-known true story of the struggle to build an interracial labor union in the Chicago Stockyards.  The screenplay by Obie Award-winning screenwriter Leslie Lee, based on an original story by producer Elsa Rassbach, traces the racial and class conflicts seething in the city’s giant slaughterhouses, and the brutal efforts of management to divide the workforce along ethnic lines, which eventually boiled over in the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. 

The first feature film by director Bill Duke (A Rage in Harlem, Sister Act2, Cemetery Club), The Killing Floor won the Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award and was invited to Cannes. The film premiered on PBS' American Playhouse series to rave reviews and has been showcased at the Lincoln Center and festivals around the world. La Revue du Cinema calls the film "a particularly brilliant example of a cinema which knows how to use all the resources of fiction, without ever allowing its historical documentary side to be marred."

Producer, journalist and activist Elsa Rassbach began work with a team of historians on a multi-part series on labor history for PBS in the 1970s, ultimately resulting in The Killing Floor in 1984. Currently residing in Berlin, Rassbach is editing a new documentary and working on the campaign against NATO and other peace projects with War Resisters and CODEPINK in Germany.

(1984, 16mm, 118 min)

Co-sponsored by The Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, The Chicago Studies Program, the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and The Human Rights Program.